Custom Parallels VM icons

November 24th, 2009 by sjan

I run a lot of VMs in Parallels. (Currently I am running 7, although not all at once, of course.) I end up with a bunch of red generic Parallels VM alias icons on my desktop. Which means that the usual visual quick clues (color, logos, etc) aren’t there and I have to look at the text underneath. Sometimes I am in a rush and start Windows Server 2008 instead of Windows 7 Pro, or Ubuntu Linux instead of Debian Linux (one is set up as a desktop and one as a server with no X).

I really wanted some custom icons for those VMs. My solution, (as usual) when it doesn’t exist make it. So, I opened pvs.icns (contained in the Parallels bundle /Applications/Parallels in Icon, selected the 512 x 512 version and copied it to the clipboard. I then pasted that into a new Photoshop document and began editing. I saved each new version as a 512 x 512 pixel png and then dropped them in which converted them to the icns files I needed to customize my VM launchers.

icon_anim.gifBehold the glory:

They aren’t perfect, especially the Windows Server 2008, but they are different enough that it is easy to select the right VM in a heartbeat.

You can download the icns files from

Try out Chrome OS in a VM – even Parallels!

November 21st, 2009 by sjan

If you have been curious about trying out Google’s Chrome OS (or Chromium OS – they seem to call it both) there is a VMWare image available for download at You will need to set up an account there if you don’t already have one, but it is painless. The VM image is zipped to around 300MB so downloading is not painful at all.

If you are using VMWare Player or VirtualBox or VMWare Fusion (on Mac) there is nothing you need to do but open it up and go. If you are using Parallels, however, there are a couple steps to take.

First you need to convert the vmdk to a raw disk image. To do this you will need to get Qemu (actually, qemu-img, a utility that comes with Qemu.) If you are on a Mac (as most Parallels users are) you can download and install Q, which is a very nice OS X port of Qemu with a GUI (which we won’t be using for this exercise).

The command to convert the disk image is slightly different if you are using the default Qemu package or the one provided with Q. If you are using the default the following should work (assuming your install of Qemu is in /usr/bin/):

/usr/bin/qemu-img convert chrome-os- -O raw chrome.hdd

If you are using Q, the version of qemu-img that is included does not quite handle the command line switches correctly. Luckily, it defaults to raw image output. The command if you have Q installed should look like:

/Applications/ convert chrome-os- chrome.hdd

Now, start up Parallels, and add a new VM. For type, set it to Other Linux and when it asks whether to create a new disk image or use an existing one tell it to use the disk image you just created.

Start the VM and enjoy(?) the browser as OS experience. Oh, and the login credentials? Your Google account.

Parallels 4: first impressions

November 16th, 2008 by sjan

I upgraded to Parallels 4 the other day, and hadn’t really had time prior to today to do anything more than open my old VMs and upgrade them to the new version. So today I decided to put it through some paces. I have a massive Gentoo Server VM built in VMWare (one that I built for work) and decided to see if I couldn’t use the Parallels Transporter to convert it for use on my MBP. I first tried to import the whole Virtual Machine and it failed most unceremoniously and quickly. Whether this is due to the disks being broken into 2GB chunks or due to the OS being Gentoo I’m not sure. So, on with plan 2. Use the Transporter to import the disks and then plug those into a new image. While it took a long (long) time, Parallels did successfully import the 2 disks from the VMWare image. I then created a new Virtual Machine and pointed the VM’s first hard disk at the first image, and added a second hard disk pointed at the second image I imported. Although when I imported the first disk image I set it to be a “Bootable Disk” Parallels complained and said there was no OS on the disk and it would not be bootable. I continued anyway, and good thing I did.

After setting up the VM I started it up and sure enough, it booted fine. I did have to change the setting in /etc/fstab as the second hard disk showed up in Parallels as /dev/hdc rather than /dev/hdb.

A little tinkering with network settings (changing from eth0 to eth2) and all was running swimmingly. Since the servers on the VM rely on shared folders being available in /mnt/hgfs/ (the VMWare Workstation & VMWare Player host shared folder mount point) and Parallels will not share folders except with a Windows VM (due to the need to install Windows-specific tools) I added some configuration to /etc/fstab to use samba to mount shares from the host. (Of course, it helps to remember to turn on Windows file sharing in the OS X host too!)

EDIT: Parallels Tools for Linux Guests does, indeed, share out OS X host folders! Thanks to Vasily Averin, developer of the shared folders driver for Linux guests for pointing that out. It puts the folders in /mnt/psf which means a couple symlinks and I was on my way. Thanks!

In addition to all this tinkering to bring in a VMWare image, I ran some updates on the other Gentoo Linux image I upgraded from Parallels 3, and tried out the new “Modality” view while portage was runnning a bunch of updates. If you haven’t seen it yet, it makes a tiny semi-transparent window of the VM which stays on top of all your other apps. You can pull it down somewhere out of your way and keep an eye on how your updates are coming along. Actually pretty handy for things like attended installs and such.

Coherence in Windows seems to run even smoother than previously and I noticed that my machine wasn’t heating up nearly so bad as it used to. When you are working on a laptop this is a very good thing, indeed.

There was a lot of talk in the upgrade information about an iPhone app to controll your VMs but it doesn’t seem to be out yet. I will keep watching the app store for it though.

Minefield: I came, I saw, I couldn’t use it

November 1st, 2008 by sjan

I decided I would be brave and download Minefield (the latest “trunk build” from Firefox) and try it out. I have been reading several reviews about how fast it is, and wanted to see for myself.

I was not, however, able to use it at all. First, my current setup. I am running OS X 10.5 on a 17″ MBP with 4GB RAM. (I have the older mobo however, and the system only actually uses 3GB.) I also have Parallels 3.0 installed with a Windows XP VM (this is important) and two Linux VMs (a Gentoo server and an Ubuntu desktop).

When attempting to start Minefield on OS X (Parallels not running), as Minefield starts Parallels attempts to start an installer on Win XP. The VM cannot be shut down until Minefield is shut down and the only way to do that is via Force Quit. Otherwise the installer continues to attempt to run on Win XP in Parallels. I did not download the Windows installer, nor did I wish to, however, there is something that is triggering a “Firefox Installer” on Win XP whenever Minefield attempts to open on OS X.

Needless to say, while Minefield will not start until it has finished “installing” on XP, and since it is trying (I guess) to install the OS X version on XP, I end up with a hung Minefield and an endless loop of Windows error messages (“The application Firefox Installer has performed and illegal operation etc etc”) followed by the “Firefox Installer” on Windows dying and respawning. Maybe I’ll try again in a week or two, since these are trunk builds and fixes and updates are coming in pretty regularly at this point.

Leopard – First Run

November 2nd, 2007 by sjan

After waiting all this time for a multi-desktop environment I was excited to get and install my copy of 10.5 today. Even though it isn’t ready for some because of program incompatibilities (sorry, Ted) I hadn’t run across anything to make me think it wasn’t ready for my use. And in truth, there isn’t anything ‘wrong’ with Leopard. It just turns out that I hadn’t gotten the word that I would have to upgrade Parallels to build 5160 in order to use it on Leopard. And since I primarily want the multiple desktops (“Spaces”) to make it easier to run VMs that is in an issue. So, I am downloading the update now. Since it isn’t going to cost me anything to upgrade Parallels, that’s ok. For me, running a VM in full-screen mode while still having access to my Mac desktop is important. While I am at the desk I can do that by hooking up another monitor. When I’m not at the desk, though, that isn’t possible. What I sincerely hope is that I can run my guest OS fullscreen on one desktop while coding on another and browsing on another and wasting time (chatting and playing mindless puzzle games) on the fourth. This was my MO when I was working with VMWare on a Linux machine with XFCE. So, now I plan on doing the same on my Mac. After all, when was the last time a window manager for BSD didn’t have multiple desktops? (Ok, I know, OS X is more than a WM, but you get the drift.)

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Boot Camp + Parallels + XP = Validation Nightmare

April 11th, 2007 by sjan

I have been running XP (WinXP Pro, SP2, retail version) under Parallels for a bit, and decided I wanted to give the Boot Camp with Parallels option a try. After finding some rather lengthy and questionable instructions on moving a Parallels image to a Boot Camp partition I decided to go the clean install route.

I deleted my Parallels XP image (and subsequently ended up wishing I hadn’t) and used the Boot Camp assistant to set up my hard drive and install XP. I got XP set up and running, but had to call Microsoft to get it ‘activated’ since it saw it as a new install. Once that was taken care of I installed Office, and got the same kind of headache there – where the key wouldn’t work, because it said it had been installed on too many machines. I decided to leave that be for the time until I felt like waiting on the MS phone queue again.

I rebooted into OS X and loaded my now ‘active’ and ‘valid’ Windows XP under Parallels. As soon as it booted it gave me the message that I had 3 days to activate it as the hardware had changed significantly and it was no longer valid. I ddn’t feel like fighting it so I closed down Parallels and rebooted into XP where, surprise, I got the 3 day warning again!

So not only does loading the same image in a VM result in XP thinking it isn’t a valid copy, but it changes something in the registry somewhere, so that booting back into natively results in the same thing. I thought the concept of hardware profiles would help with this sort of thing, but apparently not. This is something that MS needs to address sooner rather than later as multicore machines make virtualization more common and loading a native image in a VM becomes a more common way of doing that.

An interesting side note: I got fed up with the whole validation issue and removed the XP partition and re-installed XP under Parallels the same way I did originally. I expected the phone calls for the XP key and the Office key etc, etc – but, it just accepted the keys and validated no questions asked.

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Working in Coherence

April 2nd, 2007 by sjan

I just have to add a quick note here – I love the way Coherence in Parallels works! The fastest way I’ve found to test pages in multiple browsers. You’ll notice I’m testing a page in OS X in Firefox, Safari and Opera, while also testing in Win XP in Firefox, Opera and IE 7. It helps having the Windows apps show up in the dock, too.

snap-1-halfsize.jpg dock-1.jpg